Aspects of Kundalini

Breath: The Aspects of Kundalini Series

Nirmal Lumpkin

“The main problem in the world is stress.  It is not going to decrease- it is going to increase.  If through pranayam the shock can be harnessed, the entire stress and disease can be eliminated.” Yogi Bhajan

The breath is one of the few things we do that can be either completely unconscious and dictated by muscle memory, survival instinct and habit OR it can be completely consciously regulated for particular purposes.  The way we breathe has a powerful effect on how we feel in any given moment.  When we learn to breath more deeply, smoothly, fully and slowly we more easily relax and savor life. 

Prana= Life force  //  Yama= Control

So, Pranayams are techniques to control the breath.  By controlling the breath we control our state of mind, emotion and health.  Kundalini Yoga has a deep well of pranayam techniques to try for example,

G Breath of Fire is an immune booster

G Sitali pranayam calms and cools in intense situations

G Suspending the breath out helps us work through our fears

G Segmented breaths build mental alertness

One of the great things about having a few breath techniques in your yogic toolkit is that breath can really be used at any time, by almost anyone in any situation.  Wherever you are right now…stop and take a long slow breath in through your nose, let your belly relax out as you do …. And then a long slow exhale through your nose, feel yourself sinking down into your chair as you do.  Do you feel more peaceful? Grounded? Or attentive than you did a moment I go?  (I do!) 

Nirmal's Breath Story

Confession time:  I was a reverse mouth-breather.  Whew!  There, I said it!  I remember being on a road trip when I was about 8.  Laying down on the bench seat in our wood-paneled mini van.  And watching my belly as I was breathing.  I noticed that as I was breathing air in my belly sucked in and I felt tightness in my chest and shoulders.  As we continued down the road and I continued to watch my belly all of the sudden I had this thought. “If the air is going IN shouldn’t my belly go OUT to make room for it?”  I tried making my belly move out when I inhaled….but it felt weird.  Also when I was younger my sister used to make fun of me for breathing  loudly through my mouth.  I would try breathing through my nose instead ….but after a few breaths I would feel like I was running out of air and have to take a big gulp of air to catch up.

These incidents stuck in my mind…but I didn’t give them a lot of weight until I started taking lots of yoga classes.  When I began learning the basics of correct breathing patterns I realized my reverse-mouth breathing was not only weird and loud but that it was also the opposite of an ideal breath!  My 8-year-old insight was correct….your belly should expand to make room for the air when you breath in.  (And much to my chagrin my older sister was sort of  right….you should breath through your nose not because it is quieter but because breathing thorough our nose is gentler on your body).  It was many months of practice of yoga and paying attention to my breathe before I started to re-train my body in correct breathing.  Over time I have found a greater ease with a yogic breath and it makes me feel alive, grounded, peaceful and calm. 

Breath work, and your experience of it, continues to change so much as you move forward on your path.  I am still finding newness in my breath of fire…there are still moments where I settle into it in a new way.  There are still insights for me at the end of a long breath hold.  There are still times I feel amazed at the power of pranayam.  

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Mantra: The Aspects of Kundalini Series

Nirmal Lumpkin

“We meditate so that our minds can be sharp and alert. We chant mantras so that your souls may be ignited like candles. We walk in the light of this beauty.”

One of the most transformational times in my life started from the seed of a mantra.  I was drifting through a life that vaguely resembled what I thought I was supposed to be doing…. but not really feeling connected or passionate about it.  I decided to practice a powerful chanting mantra every day for 40 days.  The decision was almost off-hand…. I had some friends who were doing this meditation and I figured I’d give it a shot.  Shortly after completing the 40 days everything in my life started to fall apart.  I was effectively kicked out of the stream of life that I had been drifting on.  The Universe picked me up and plunked me down onto a new path.  And while this transition was incredibly painful…. I wouldn’t change it for the world.  I now feel like I am purposefully walking through and co-creating my life…rather than just being a passive and apathetic observer of life. 

I credit this transformation to that chanting.  Chanting mantra is like sending a particular radio frequency out to the Universe.  You can have a profound effect on so many aspects of your life, just by aligning yourself with the vibration of a mantra.  Mantra is one of the parts of Kundalini Yoga, as taught by Yogi Bhajan, that I love the most and one of the elements that sets it apart from other schools of yoga.   Mantras are sets of sounds that we repeat to have a particular effect on our minds, bodies and/or spirits.  Most of the mantras in Kundalini Yoga are in the Gurumukhi language (a derivative of Sanskrit) but we also chant in English occasionally.   There are mantras tailor made for almost any situation: sending healing energy to yourself or someone else, mending a broken heart, grieving the loss of a loved one, inviting a new soul into our family, for even your unknown prayers to be answered…there are so many applications and varieties of mantras. 

Mantra “works” in a few different ways:

  • There are meridian points in your mouth that are stimulated by chanting.  The precise repetition of sounds presses these points to create a precise effect in your body. Much like, dialing a telephone calls a particular person.  
  • The frequency, or vibration, of the sounds begins to change your vibration as a human being….which changes the way to relate to and attract from the Universe. 
  • The rhythmic repetition of sound has a  soothing and healing effect on the body
  • When we chant as a group we create a group energy that unifies us and elevates us beyond our own perspective.  

Chanting is not signing so it doesn’t matter if you have a ”good” voice….give it a try.  Chanting is a powerful transformational experience…give it a try.  Mantras can have wide ranging effects from healing to prosperity etc…give it a try.  You’ll never know the power of chanting if you don’t just give it a try.  

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